DEFENDING champions Italy and 2019 winners Iran yesterday set up a mouth-watering clash for the gold medals in the 2023 FIVB Men’s U21 World Championship, being played at Isa Sports City in Riffa.
The Italians barged into the final with a resounding, come-from-behind victory in four sets against fellow-European giants Bulgaria; while the Iranians overcame battling South Americans Argentina, also in four sets.
The title-deciding contest is a rematch of the 2019 final, which was also held in Bahrain and won by the Iranians in a five-set thriller.
Today will mark the third straight gold medal game for Italy in the junior worlds. The final is scheduled for an 8pm start as the culmination of over a week’s action of top-class volleyball featuring the sport’s global future stars. Prior to the gold medal contest, Bulgaria and Argentina will battle for the bronze medals at 5pm.
The concluding classification games will also be held from 10am onwards.
The 16-nation Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) competition is being held under the patronage of Supreme Council for Youth and Sports first deputy chairman, General Sports Authority chairman and Bahrain Olympic Committee president Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
Holders Italy made up for an opening-set setback and stormed to the 3-1 (23-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-18) result.
The game was a battle between two of the tournament’s superstar: Italy’s Alessandro Alberto Bovolenta and Bulgaria’s Aleksandar Nikolov. Bovolenta had a fine performance of 28 points, while outside hitter Mattia Orioli added 14, including three service winners. Nikolov put in a 23-point effort in defeat, while opposite Venislav Antov chipped in with 16 markers.
“It was such a tough match; we knew it would be,” said Bovolenta. “We are very happy with the win. It was a very emotional game for us, knowing Italy won two years ago. I am so proud of my teammates and our staff for believing in us.”
Meanwhile, Iran shrugged off a sub-par start to roar back and defeat Argentina 3-1 (23-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-20).
Outside hitters Khanzadeh Firouzjah Poriya Hossein and Mastanabad Mobin Nasri scored 25 and 19 points, respectively, while Amir Mohammad Golzadeh finished with 15. Lucas Conde was the top scorer for Argentina, with Nahuel Garcia adding 12.
“We had a tough match tonight, but we won it and we hope we can be just as successful in the final,” said Golzadeh.
In fifth to eighth ranking matches, Poland outclassed Belgium 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 27-25). Opposite Aliaksei Nasevich had 14 points while outside hitter Piotr Sliwka scored 11. For the Belgians, Basil Dermaux scored 16.
Poland will take on Brazil for fifth, while Belgium will face Thailand for seventh overall.
The Brazilians ousted the Thais 3-0 (25-17, 25-18, 25-15), led by the 14 points of middle blocker Thiery Fellipe Oliveira and 12 of outside hitter Lima Joao Vitor dos Santos. Jakkrit Thanomnoi scored 11 for The Thais.
For ninth to 12th ranking, the Czech Republic defeated India 3-1 (27-25, 23-25, 25-18, 25-17), while Egypt beat Canada 3-1 (25-27, 25-22, 25-23, 25-15). The Czech Republic and Egypt will face off for ninth, while India and Canada play for 11th.
In the 13th-to-16th consolation games, the USA got their first win of the competition defeating hosts Bahrain 3-1 (25-18, 25-22, 22-25, 25-21).
USA will now play for 13th overall against Mexico, who beat Tunisia 3-1 (25-21, 22-25, 25-21, 25-22). Bahrain and Tunisia face off for 15th.